Winter in Syria can be extremely tough. Freezing cold winds, heavy rain, and sporadic snowfall combine together to create dire, and at times dangerous, situations for people across the country.
Displaced families are often the most affected. Because of the volatile economic circumstances they live in, most displaced families can only afford to build fragile, short-term structures as dwellings. These structure are often built on barren ground out of carton, scrap wood or tarmac, leaving the people that live inside them vulnerable to the harsh weather of Syrian winters. At almost any time a dwelling can damaged by the winded, or be flooded because of rainfall or snowfall.
If the weather is particularly bad, it can destroy the fragile structures entirely, forcing camp residents to move locations and rebuild during the most difficult period of the year. Because of this, winter has become a season that Syrians in the north await with fear and caution.
“Every winter, we are faced with painful scenes of families collecting their belongings in the mud from their flooded tents to look for another place to seek safety,” said Dr. Sameer, RI’s Field Health Officer.
Last winter was particularly harsh. UN agencies reported that more than 1,700 families in Northern Syria were affected by floods, with more than 200 tents completely destroyed and more than 1,400 in need of extensive repairs.
“Winters in Syria follow a very familiar pattern: after a very dry summer, the rain will fall heavily in December and quickly soak through the porous ground. This creates flood like conditions and puts thousands of displaced Syrians living in camps and informal settlements in jeopardy” says Dr. Rania, RI’s rapid response coordinator.
The weather, and lack of shelter, can have a brutal impact on displaced families’ health. Relief International supports those affected through its Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) medical teams. These teams act as mobile health clinics; deploying to the most urgent areas to treat communicable and non-communicable diseases, offer reproductive health services, distribute essential drugs to patients, and treat illnesses caused by the severe conditions in the badly damaged camps.
In total last year, our RRM teams were able to serve roughly 3000 people throughout the winter response period, approximately half of whom were women and girls.
This year it is more of the same. There has already been extensive flooding in December and January in several parts of the country, as well as numerous reports of heavy snowfall in recent weeks. To respond, Relief International’s rapid response team is currently providing medical care for 35 camps and informal settlements affected by the winter weather.
“Our rapid response medical teams are on alert day in and day out, ready to provide health services to displaced people and families affected by the weather,” says Dr. Rania, RI’s rapid response coordinator, “and we will continue to do so throughout the difficult winter period.”